- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

The former treasurer of the Washington Teachers Union continued to receive money from the union even after he had gone to work in the administration of then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, the former union president testified yesterday.

Barbara A. Bullock said Mr. Barry wanted ex-treasurer James O. Baxter II “to be a director full time and [Mr. Barry said] it wouldn’t be a conflict of interest if [Mr. Baxter] remained at the WTU to maintain accounts and sign checks.”

“[Mr. Baxter’s] responsibility to lobby ceased when he went to work for the mayor” in 1997, testified Bullock, who is serving nine years in prison for her part in taking as much as $1.2 million from the union treasury.

In her second day on the witness stand in the embezzlement trial of Mr. Baxter and two other former union officials, Bullock also identified Mr. Baxter’s signature along with her own on union checks and those made payable to Mr. Baxter.

Checks issued in 2002 to Mr. Baxter included one for $60,000, five for $3,014.40 each, three for $3,000 each, two for $4,500 each, and one for $8,500. Bullock also identified union checks that paid for insurance, maintenance and repairs on Mr. Baxter’s car.

Bullock’s testimony against the union’s former office manager, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, was equally incriminating.

Previously, Bullock testified that union money was paid to a caterer for the wedding of Mrs. Hemphill’s son.

About 20 pages of copies of checks made payable to Mrs. Hemphill included $3,428.61 for expenses reimbursement, $1,789.63 for tickets and audio-equipment rental, a check for $5,013.99 and another for $9,879.56.

Bullock previously testified that she, Mr. Baxter and Mrs. Hemphill used the union’s American Express card account to buy personal goods, and other things such as tickets to Washington Redskins football and Washington Mystics basketball games.

Bullock preferred buying jewelry, silverware, crystal, wigs, shoes and clothing for herself. She has said they used the name of a cooperative firm and another American Express card account to hide the expenditures.

Yesterday, Bullock examined a list of American Express card payments for union business and her personal expenses. When she first examined the list several years ago, she did not indicate that some expenses were personal.

“At that particular time, I was just trying to cover my tracks,” said Bullock, who has been admitting her crimes on the witness stand.

A payment in the amount of $30,200 was made to an art gallery.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Cooper asked Bullock, “This was not for the union?”

“No,” she replied, adding that she hung the art pieces in her house.

The personal expenses also included several annual bills for removing and storing Bullock’s clothing.

“Why did you have to have someone to store your clothes?” Mr. Cooper asked Bullock.

“Because I did not have enough room,” she replied.

The larger union checks had to be signed by both Bullock and Mr. Baxter. Bullock, who recognized Mr. Baxter and Mrs. Hemphill’s handwriting, identified her own signature, and other stamps of her signature that she said she authorized Mrs. Hemphill to use.

“If I didn’t sign the check, Mrs. Hemphill used a stamp of my signature,” Bullock said.

One document about a tax return did not include her handwritten signature.

“It looks like Mrs. Hemphill signed my name to the document,” Bullock said.

Mrs. Hemphill’s attorney, Nancy Luque, objected to Bullock’s testimony. She told U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon that the prosecution should have asked and would have been told that Bullock had authorized Mrs. Hemphill to sign her name.

Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter are charged with conspiracy and aiding and abetting in the theft of nearly $5 million from the teachers union from the 1990s until 2002.

Former union accountant James Goosby is on trial on charges of helping hide the thefts by filing phony financial reports.

Bullock, who pleaded guilty in 2003, could see her sentence reduced because of her testimony.

Testimony continues today at U.S. District Court.

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